Minnesota Youth Hunting

August 16, 2011 by  

Our Outdoors – By Nick Simonson

Odds are your introduction to hunting wasn’t like mine.  Sure, I collected the tail feathers and wings from the pheasants and ducks my dad brought home from his hunts when I was too young to go into the field with him.  But with the death of the family dog on my twelfth birthday, my dad retired from the field and my hunting experience in my formative years consisted primarily of Duck Hunt on the Nintendo.
It wasn’t until a fishing buddy suggested, upon my return from college, that I get into hunting as well.  That summer, at the tender age of 22, I sat amongst the fifth and sixth graders in the Science Building auditorium at Valley City State University for two weeks learning the basics of hunter’s safety.  My hand was in the air about as frequently as my classmates, and upon graduation I joined my friends in a dirt field east of my hometown and helped them empty their ammunition boxes.
The following autumn, I chased mourning doves across Grand Forks County after Contracts class at UND, shot my first rooster (on my twenty-second shot of opening day) one hundred yards from my grandma’s farm house near Watford City, ND and laughed as the gurgling grouse near Sibley, ND made me look silly.  From those early ventures into a non-traditional hunting journey, I’ve added the thundering flushes of ruffed grouse from alder thickets in the woods of Minnesota’s Arrowhead and stared down a curious buck in the southwest corner of the state and made numerous trips back and forth to the places where it all began.
Looking back, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.  I was able to join the hunt at an age where I could clearly articulate my mistakes, and often recorded them each week in this very column – providing a unique take on what is generally an initiation rite for pre-teens and teenagers.  You’ve been there with me through the lows, the highs and the in-betweens.  We’ve shared the excitement of first deer taken, and the first deer I’ve passed up.  We’ve felt the knee-knocking adrenaline from a flushing pheasant and we’ve ground out round-after-round of trap, rifle sighting sessions and target shooting together.
But now, it is time for you to share those experiences with someone else and make some new memories with them.  And that someone is a young person who wants to get in the field so bad this year, it’s all he or she thinks about – and he or she is not 22.  He or she is probably 12 or 13 and wants to know more about the outdoors; the rush, the shortfalls and the “A-HA!” moments that come with sweet success.
The fact is, underneath the iPods, Xboxes and non-stop texting, the youth in our area STILL have hunting in their veins – they’re born with it as part of their very being, even if they weren’t born with a gun in their hands.  In fact, it is so important to them, whether they know it or not, that the generations before them have made it LAW that they have their own hunting seasons.  And it’s up to you to get them out there and obey that law – not just the law that lets them get the first shot, but the one that drives us all to be hunters.
States throughout the Upper Midwest afford a number of opportunities for youth to pursue waterfowl, pheasant and deer on their own terms and in their own times.  North Dakota’s youth seasons for deer, waterfowl and pheasants open on September 16, September 17 and October 1 (tentatively – visit http://gf.nd.gov for more information on youth seasons) and Minnesota’s youth waterfowl and deer seasons begin on September 10 and October 20, respectively (again, tentatively – visit www.dnr.state.mn.us for details).
Head to your calendar.  Circle these dates.  Find a youngster – whether it’s your child, a niece, nephew, grandkid, or a neighbor and pass on what you’ve learned over the years – your tips, your stories, your screw-ups and successes.  Walk along side them, and whether something ends up in the game bag or not, encourage your companions to continue this great tradition.  Focus on the importance of being in the field and living in the moment.  By doing so, you’ll do more than just teach them the basics and test their safety skills learned this summer – you’ll help pass on the heritage of hunting to the next generation of participants, proponents and protectors…of our outdoors


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